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Talking Turkey and Gobbling It Up

A Provencal TurkeyA Provencal Turkey

This afternoon, I’ll be stopping by the “boucher” (butcher) to pick up the turkey I ordered with all the “parts” — the gizzards, the neck, the liver, etc…which is not the usual MO for the French butchers. They normally don’t include all those delicacies when handing over the big bird, nor are they used to getting an order for a whole turkey — except once a year by Americans making a Thanksgiving dinner.

I fully expect the five-kilo turkey to cost a small fortune — between 55€ and 70€. Even the butcher didn’t know a price to tell me when I ordered it, so, I just have to hope for the best. One thing for sure, it’s going to be delicious. French turkeys are THE BEST.

I haven’t made a turkey myself in several years, since for the last four years I’ve celebrated the American holiday with friends in Provence who make the turkey using “sous-vide” — a method in which the turkey is sealed in airtight plastic bags, then submerged in a warm bath of water in a temperature-controlled special vat for a very long time (many hours), and at the end, browned with a blow torch (true!) before serving. It is absolutely delicious this way, but it must be cooked in pieces so, you end up with a serving of the parts, rather than the one big pretty bird as we know it.

Turkey by Lillian Zacky and Zacky FarmsTurkey by Lillian Zacky and Zacky Farms

Cooking it breast-side downCooking it breast-side down

When I was living in Los Angeles, I had the good fortune of knowing Lillian Zacky, whose manicure appointment followed mine every Friday for years. Ms. Zacky is the voice for Zacky Farms, one of the largest poultry providers in the U.S., having established it in California in 1928 and now spanning four generations dedicating their life’s work and passion (as Lillian says on their Web site) to poultry. Mention “chicken” to Lillian and she can talk about it at great length. Just prior to Thanksgiving, Lillian divulged her favorite turkey recipe, which I cooked many years to great satisfaction.

A few days ago I set out to find the recipe amid other hand-written ones in an old recipe box and couldn’t find it. Fortunately, Lillian has added it to their site for all to enjoy. Lillian’s turkeys are juicy and delicious. The secret is this: cook the bird breast side down and when it’s done, wrap is tight in foil to let it baste in its own juices for a while. Now it’s available for all to enjoy. Here you go.

No offense to Lillian and her American turkeys, but French turkeys are a different animal and are more flavorful and juicier than their American buddies. The funny thing is that it was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus, so it’s truly Americana at it’s best, and the French love it almost as much as they do chicken. The word for turkey in French is “dinde,” which comes from the discovery of the Americas (i.e., the Indies), when the French called them “coq d’Inde,” or “poule d’Inde,” and was morphed into just “dinde.”

French turkeys on the FarmFrench turkeys on the Farm

French turkeys are bred mostly in the west and southeast of France raised industrially, as well as organically, by various kinds of farmers. There are about 200 species worldwide but the ones we’re most familiar with here in France are the Rouge des Ardennes, very hardy; the Bronzé d’Amérique, one of the largest and the Larger White, a fast-growing and prolific breed used in factory-style farming.

The difference is that the body is larger, the meat less dense and darker and believe it or not, it cooks in half the time. For those of you cooking a French turkey for the first time, don’t overcook it. Even Lillian’s recipe must be cut in half. Here’s the formula:

Note: * 1 kilo = 2.2 pounds
        * To convert temperatures in Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply by 1.8 (or         9/5) and add 32.

American Recipe:

Set the oven at 325 Fahrenheit degrees for 15 minutes to the pound, so for a 12-pound turkey, cook it for three hours.

French Recipe:

Set the oven at 165-degrees Celsius for 16.5 minutes per kilo, so for a five-kilo turkey, cook it for about 1.5 hours.

Thanksgiving is everyone’s favorite holiday and our French friends clamor to be invited to an American Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Finding the trimmings isn’t all that easy, except for in Paris we have the luxury of an American products store, called appropriately “Thanksgiving.”  It has it all…at a price, of course.

One of my dinner guests wanted so badly to make sweet potatoes that she went for broke and bought canned ones before realizing that they are readily available at the African markets here in Paris for next to nothing. My daughter picked them up at the open-air market at Château Rouge, known for offering products sold by traders from France, North Africa, China, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent. She also imported canned cranberry sauce from New York for the occasion. It’s the toughest part of the meal to find in France.

Finding friends to partake is the easy part. That’s what makes it so much fun, not to mention the good eats.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - in Provence with...a turkey!

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(in Provence with…a turkey!)


 Respond to Adrian


House Hunters International - High Above The Cote dAzur

P.S. Don’t miss your chance to see our recent House Hunters International episode, “High Above the Cote d’Azur,” airing Sunday the 27th at 11:30 p.m. ET and the 28th at 2:30 a.m. ET. Details on our House Hunters International page.

P.P.S. There will be no French Property Insider (for those of you who receive our property publication) in honor of the holiday, but will be back on track next Thursday as usual.


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